How to Rank With Google’s Helpful Content Update

How to Rank With Google’s Helpful Content Update

One of Google’s most significant updates has shaken up the SERPs, and many people find themselves trying to recover from massive hits to their online rankings.

Where do you even start?

That’s what we’re here to answer.

Google’s Helpful Content Update made some significant changes to the type of content that Google rewards with high rankings, and it takes some getting used to.

In this article, we’ll explain what the Helpful Content Update changed, how to beat it, and how to keep track of your ranks so you can continue to make strategic changes over time.

Let’s get started!

We’ll cover:

What Is the Helpful Content Update?

Before discussing how to win with Google’s Helpful Content Update, we must figure out exactly what the update changed.

For example, what type of content does the Helpful Content Update reward? What kind of content should you avoid after the update? What other changes have been made?

In this section, we’ll explain what the Helpful Content Update means for your business and show you how to take advantage of it.

It Focuses on Content Written for People – Not Search Engines

The most significant changes made with the Helpful Content Update can be summarized in this phrase: Content should be written for people, not search engines.

In the past, some SEO tactics prioritized feeding the algorithm overlord instead of providing value to users. This led to keyword-stuffed, poorly-written, robotic content.

But hey! At least it got ranked, right?

Those days are over.

With the Helpful Content Update, Google no longer rewards content that sounds like it was written just to meet an algorithm quota. Now, Google wants content demonstrating experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

This means creating content that resonates with readers, answers their burning questions and concerns, and adds genuine value to their lives.

In other words, you’ve got to write content that sounds like it was written BY humans, FOR humans.

It Prioritizes Valuable Content

What’s the best way to write content for humans?


We’ve been saying this for a long time, but now it’s more important than ever: If you aren’t providing genuine value with EVERY piece of content you publish, STOP what you’re doing!

Everything on your website should provide tangible value to your readers.

Google used to rank content based on keywords and backlinks. Nowadays, search engines have drastically improved their ability to determine content’s relevance and usefulness.

Websites offering informative, engaging, and well-researched content are rewarded with higher rankings, while those prioritizing quantity over quality will ABSOLUTELY see a decline in visibility.

It Penalizes Websites With a Lot of Fluff

We’ve all seen the websites with the 6000-word article that could have been a tweet.

DON’T let that describe your website!

After the Google Helpful Content Update, fluff will KILL your rankings (and may earn you a Google penalty if it’s bad enough!).

Fluff is the exact opposite of valuable content. It lacks experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. We run across fluff content all the time:

  • Keyword-stuffed articles
  • Thinly veiled sales pitches
  • Repetitive content that adds little value to the reader
  • A piece about trends that hasn’t taken the time to do fundamental research

With the Helpful Content Update, Google is cracking down on these types of content!

Avoid the fluff and only post something if it adds value to the online conversation in your niche!

How to Rank After the Helpful Content Update

So, now you know what type of content the Helpful Content Update is looking for.

The next question should be obvious:

How do you rank after the Helpful Content Update?

What kind of content should you prioritize to ensure Google thinks your pages are helpful and follow the E-E-A-T guidelines?

That’s what we’re here to answer.

In this section, we’ll provide 8 practical ways to ensure your content meets Google’s new guidelines, helping you launch your page to the top of the SERPs.

Add Original & Unique Insights + Experiences

There are about 130 TRILLION pages on Google.

inf helpful content 1.1

That’s right. Trillion. With a T.

How do you stand out in that ocean of content?

Offer insights and experiences that set your content apart from the rest.

In other words, say something the other people in your niche aren’t saying. 

However, don’t be unique just to be unique. Add a fresh perspective based on your experience in your field.

Doing so kills 2 birds with one stone: it provides valuable content for your readers AND establishes you as a voice worth listening to in your field.

Whether sharing personal anecdotes, conducting original research, or simply making things easy and digestible for your readers, adding unique value will attract readers and let search engines know your content is worth ranking higher.

Make It Clear WHY Your Audience Can Trust YOU on A Topic

Why should I read your article? Who cares what you have to say?

You should answer these questions for your audience if you want them to find your content valuable.

Communicate your expertise, credentials, and track record in your niche. Try a multi-pronged approach to establish credibility:

  • Share testimonials
  • Publish case studies
  • Share endorsements from satisfied customers or industry experts
  • Include detailed “about” bios for your authors

When your audience understands why they can trust you, they’ll be more inclined to engage with your content and trust your recommendations.

Fully Satisfy Search Intent… As Quickly As Possible

When you look something up on Google, you usually look for quick answers about specific topics.

For example, you might be looking for an article about how to help your Instagram posts reach more people. In that case, you want something that gives you ALL the info you need in the smallest package.

Keep that in mind when writing your content. Google rewards content that closely matches what searchers are looking for WITHOUT dragging on forever.

Remember, nobody wants to read about your life story if they’re just looking for a simple pasta recipe.

If you want to rank after the Helpful Content Update, understand what users look for when they enter a particular search phrase and ensure your content answers their questions as soon as possible.

Carefully Structure Your Content to Be Helpful

Google has explicitly stated that the Helpful Content Update places more value on the user’s page experience.

In other words, how enjoyable is it to be on your site reading your content?

Several factors play into this:

  • Skimmability (hardly anyone reads content word for word, so make sure the significant takeaways can be gleaned quickly through formatting like bullet points, short paragraphs, and everyday language)
  • Visual elements like pictures and infographics
  • Visually pleasing page design
  • Easy site navigation
  • Descriptive headings and subheadings
  • Table of contents and anchor links

Your goal is to make every piece of content as helpful as possible.

Providing a great user experience by following the points above will encourage readers to stay on the page longer, which signals to Google that your content offers VALUE (and is worth ranking higher!).

Provide More Value Than Competitors

Unfortunately, you can write fantastic content that still doesn’t rank very high if your competitors’ content is better.

In other words, providing more value than competitors is essential to rank on Google.

To avoid this problem, every blog post should start with thoroughly analyzing competing content to identify gaps, opportunities, and areas where you can excel.

For example, let’s say your competitor publishes an article, but you notice it lacks industry research. That might give you a path to beating their content on the SERP.

Here are some more tips to help you find areas where you can provide more value than your competitors:

  • Offer MORE tips (and make it clear in your page title)
  • Make sure your content is actionable instead of just talking about a topic
  • Provide more comprehensive coverage (not necessarily LONGER, but more thorough with less fluff)
  • Offer unique perspectives that make your content stand out as a go-to resource for your audience. For example, what have you learned in your experience that would be valuable for your readers?

Build Topical Authority By Becoming Hyper-Focused on Your Niche

Remember that the key to winning after the Helpful Content Update is to remember E-E-A-T—experience, expertise, AUTHORITATIVENESS, and trustworthiness.

Developing topical authority means becoming a searcher’s one-stop shop for information in your niche.

In other words, the site you go to looking for information in a particular area has high topical authority.

How do you develop topical authority?

Don’t waste your time (and readers’ time) by putting out random content that doesn’t pertain to your specific niche.

Try to stick to creating content that’s relevant to your business & customers.

Then, create A LOT of that content.

Google is more likely to rank you for money keywords if you have a bunch of supporting content around that topic.

Create a Helpful (But Click-Worthy) Title

The first impression searchers have of your site is the title of your page.

It helps them decide whether to click on your content or keep scrolling.

In other words, your title is high stakes!

When creating new content, Google says one question you should ask yourself is, “Does the main heading or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?”

In other words, your title should accurately reflect the content of your piece while also being compelling and click-worthy!

Here are some strategies to make your titles interesting, descriptive, and click-worthy:

  • The title should tell readers what the article is about (duh!).
  • If your article includes X number of tips, your title should say something to let your readers know it’s a list-style article.
  • Use strong words that will be compelling to your readers.
  • Keep it short and catchy (50-60 characters is ideal to avoid getting cut off on the SERP)

If your title doesn’t describe your content, it’s clickbait, which will hurt your ranks!

Revamp Old Content to Follow These Rules

By now, you might realize that the content you published before the Helpful Content Update doesn’t meet these guidelines.

If you want to stay competitive on the SERP after the Helpful Content Update, you must revamp your existing content to follow these new guidelines.

A revamp involves several critical steps:

  1. Update outdated information
  2. Improve readability
  3. Add new insights or experiences
  4. Increase value
  5. Ensure old content matches Helpful Content Update guidelines as outlined above.

If you keep your content fresh and relevant, you’ll continue to attract traffic and improve your rankings over time.

How to Use ProRankTracker to Rank With the Helpful Content Update

How much did the Helpful Content Update affect you, if at all?

If you don’t instantly have an answer to that question, you aren’t tracking your ranks as well as you need to be.

Tracking your ranks allows you to quickly and easily know exactly how your ranks are being affected so you can know what changes need to be made.

That’s where a rank tracking tool like ProRankTracker comes into play.

ProRankTracker allows you to track all your ranks (and your competitors’ ranks) to see how they change over time.

You can set up reports and notifications to alert you whenever your ranks change.

There are a few ways to take advantage of ProRankTracker’s tracking capabilities to help you recover from the Helpful Content Update:

1. Add all your essential URLs and keywords and track them regularly using the Rankings Views.

Rankings Views

2. Establish an automated reporting and notification schedule to stay current on your ranks.

Automated email rank tracking reports


3. Update and refresh articles that have dropped in rankings.

Daily rank tracking

4. Use the Keywords Suggestions and Rankings Discovery tools to develop your keyword strategy as you identify holes in your content.

Keywords Suggestions and Rankings Discovery tools

Using a tool like ProRankTracker to stay updated with any changes to the Google algorithm (like the Helpful Content Update) is one of the only surefire ways to stay ahead of the competition and at the top of the SERPs!


Has anyone recovered from Google’s helpful content update?

Yes! Businesses that have implemented the strategies above are recovering from the Google Helpful Content Update. It seems like guesswork, but ranking after the Helpful Content Update results from following the guidelines above.

How do you beat the helpful content update?

The name of the Helpful Content Update provides the answer itself: write HELPFUL CONTENT. You will rank if your content provides more VALUE than your competitors.

Is AI content against Google guidelines?

AI content generation is NOT against Google’s guidelines, but I HIGHLY recommend you think twice before posting an article generated solely by AI. Instead, use AI as a drafting tool, then extensively edit to add more value, update formatting, and inject your expertise and voice into the content.

Ready to stay on top of your rankings?

Ranking after Google’s Helpful Content Update may seem like dark magic, but it’s not!

If you follow the tips outlined in this article, your pages should start to recover quickly from the damage the Helpful Content Update caused them. 

If you don’t take anything else away from this article, remember this: prioritize VALUE by injecting your expertise and authority into every post you make, and the Helpful Content Update will reward you.

If you are unsure how you were affected by the Helpful Content Update, I highly recommend signing up for a free trial with ProRankTracker to see just how much it can help you strategically recover from the update.

Good luck!